The readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time are refreshing, in contrast with our depressing daily news. I don’t want to see the day when the Scriptures fail to deal with the unredeemed issues in our society.
On the national level we have elected government leaders acting like 2-year-olds in a playpen fighting over toys, which they think will make them powerful, but disappear from their grasp. Soon, they will become a part of the “Ubi Sunt” literature: “Where are they now?”
On the national level, we have hundreds of thousands of adults and youth marching in Washington, D.C., braving discomfort. They were there to witness to the rights of the unborn. On the same national level, we have young newly elected members to Congress, latching on to agendas at odds with Catholic teaching, hoping to ride to national prominence.
In the midst of this, God tells us today: “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
In the first reading, God offers Jeremiah not comfort, but a call that will entail severe discomfort. God had a plan for him before he was conceived in his mother’s womb. We have the same call, in a different time and in a different culture but coming from the same God.
God doesn’t offer Jeremiah worldly success free from suffering, but rather an abundance of suffering leading to otherworldly success. God prepares him to be a prophet, saying: “But do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them …”
Jeremiah’s call is a prefigurement of Christ’s call. “It is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land. …They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
If we’re looking for a comfortable, cozy, pleasurable life devoid of witnessing timeless values to others, Christianity isn’t for us. On the other hand, if we’re looking for meaningful life of living and witnessing Christ’s values to others so that they might attain eternal salvation, stay tuned to your call in baptism. Before you escape this earth, your call in baptism will be filled with meaning and purpose that will make suffering both rewarding and a source of deep peace.
We should never be mean or use harsh language against people who promote agendas that don’t conform with Church teaching. We are to stand calmly, firmly, and peacefully for the biblical view of sex and marriage; that will be enough, provided we continue to witness to these values and pray for people who oppose them.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, one word sums up the two great commandments: love. He tells us seven things that love is and seven things that love is not. Finally he states: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Once we are in heaven, we will no longer need faith and hope, but love will remain for all eternity. How can it be otherwise because “God is love”?
Jesus in the Gospel replicates Jeremiah in the first reading. “Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: ‘Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing’.”
Their initial response was wonderment. They were amazed at the gracious words that came so freely from His lips. However, it dawned upon them that these words were a real challenge to their current way of believing, living and relating. Hence they turned upon Him in cynicism and said: “Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.”
His response doesn’t comfort them because He points out that some Gentiles experienced blessings from God, which the Jews thought were reserved only to Jews. It infuriated them to think that Gentiles received blessings from God. “When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built.”
If He had allowed them to kill Him at this moment, He would have spared Himself the tortures of Calvary. However, Jesus says: “I do only what I see the Father doing.” His work wasn’t complete. He had more witnessing and suffering to undergo.
As long as the word of God in this life smites us, we carry within ourselves the hope of eternal glory. We’re neon lights to people wavering in faith. We’re beacons of hope to people who are persecuted for their faith. We’re refreshment to people who are left thirsty by their own sins.
As long as we’re struggling with the word of God within us, we’re signs to others of God’s relentless love for humanity. Our very weaknesses become our gifts. St. Therese tells us: “The poorer you are, the more Jesus will love you.” If you never thought you qualify, you now know that you do.
Every day we’re bearers of the living God who is using our every activity to show others that He is alive in us for them. If we remember who God is, we’ll remember more accurately who we are.